My day is made every two weeks or so when I’m told I’m better than 13.5.
That’s the level my iron has to be at before the phlebotomists at the Delta Blood Bank on March Lane in Stockton can stick a needle in my arm for an hour. If it’s a good day, I get to have a needle stuck in my arm for two hours while squeezing a rubber ball every 10 seconds.
If that sounds like I’m borderline nuts consider this: There are cancer patients out there who would gladly trade places with me in a heartbeat.
Earlier this month I hit the 30-gallon donation mark with Delta Blood Bank. While that sounds like a lot, they have had people that have donated 100 gallons.
I’ve been a platelet donor for six years or so. Between driving to Stockton — or Modesto — and going through the screening, donation, and canteen time afterwards it takes 70 plus hours a year of my time.
Could I spend my time doing something else? Definitely. Would it be more productive? Absolutely not.
The reason is what they do with my platelets and those from other donors. Platelets are tiny cells in your blood that form clots and stop bleeding. They are needed somewhere in this country by someone every 30 seconds. Platelets are only good for five days after they are drawn. Whole blood can remain good for up to 40 days.
There are hundreds of people in 11 hospitals throughout the 209 region that need platelets. They are essential in helping patients survive and fight cancer. Platelets are also used by patents fighting chronic diseases or those with traumatic injuries such as sustained in automobile accident.
So what do I get out of it?
It goes without saying that there is something rewarding knowing you are doing some good for people you will never meet. But there is more to it than that. The majority of my donations are single meaning I have an hour to read uninterrupted while squeezing a rubber ball. When I do double donations, I get to watch a fee movie on a DVD player courtesy of the Delta Bank. It is arguably the most relaxing time I spend every two weeks.
Then there is the selfish stuff. The screening. Before donated blood can be used, each unit is screened for eight serious diseases. They also look for unusual or atypical red blood cells. While that doesn’t mean you may have something such as cancer, when they are detected doctors typically stress it is important to see what is going on as quickly as possible. This might sound a tad wacky but it’s like having a free blood screening twice a month as opposed to the once a year screening you get with a general physical.
I like having someone monitor my blood pressure and resting heart rate on a regular basis. Ok, so I am a tad weird.
On Saturday my blood pressure was 118/74 while my resting heart rate was 60. I’d been happier if it was closer to the usual 50 but I can’t complain. Average for my age is 75.
So why am I so obsessed with my blood pressure and heart rate? Let’s put it this way. If I keep track of my tire pressure and oil levels to make sure my Ford Escape is in optimum shape and not on the verge of a major breakdown that could put my life in jeopardy or cost me a ton of money, why wouldn’t I do the same for my own body?
You won’t find Delta Blood Bank — or any other donation center — making a point to market the blood screening, blood pressure check, and the pulse rate count as a reason to donate but perhaps they should.
I’ll admit the screening and such isn’t what got me hooked. I credit that to two people — my Mom and Dale Johnson.
My Mom got into the habit of donating blood during World War II. She’d do so every eight weeks when a blood drive came to the Lincoln Veterans Hall. And it was no piece of cake since the Sacramento Blood Bank at the time had donors lay flat on folding tables like you see at the MRPS Hall.
Dale Johnson — who was one of the founders of Manteca District Ambulance — also was responsible for years for planning Manteca’s only community blood drives. Dale’s mantra was simple: You can save someone’s life.
When I was asked by Delta Blood Bank if I’d consider being a platelet donor, I immediately thought of my Mom and Dale. I didn’t hesitate. My answer was “yes.”
People like Dale and their commitment to everything from making sure emergency medical help to blood supplies are available have helped save countless lives.
Being a 30-gallon donor pales in comparison.
That said, in 12 days I’ll be back at Delta Blood Bank.
And Dale knows the reason.
Somewhere in this part of California that I call home someone’s life will be in the balance and will need platelets in their battle to live.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.